Hundreds of international students homeless in Groningen
Hundreds of international students are starting their studies in Groningen with no place to live, said volunteer organization Shelter Our Students. The organization is currently trying to help some 600 foreign students find temporary accommodations while a more permanent solution is sought, and that number is increasing every day, NOS reports.
"It is worse than ever this year," Marinus Jongman of Shelter Our Students said to the broadcaster. "Every year there is a peak in home seekers at the start of the academic year, but this usually resolves itself fairly quickly. Not this year." According to him, there are two reasons for this - the student housing shortage, and the fact that more and more students are coming to Groningen.
International students also face discrimination on the housing market. "We know stories of international students who communicate by email in Dutch with a landlord using Google Translate. Then there is no problem. But if they then call on the phone in English, they suddenly can't get the accommodation anymore, because suddenly it is only intended for people over 55, or something like that," Jongman said.
According to Jongman, the emergency shelter for students is already full, with all 240 places filled. Students are now forced to stay with acquaintances, or have to pay 25 euros per night in a hostel. Shelter For Students has a steady rotation of four or five student volunteers non-stop on the phone trying to find housing for homeless international students, he said.
"About 600 foreign students have now registered with us, but that increases by 30 to 40 a day. Of those people, about 155 have now found temporary accommodation. We also registered about 240 'hosts' who are willing to help someone," Jongman said. The hosts are mostly students with a couch to spare. He stressed that these are only temporary solutions - hosts can only take someone in for a few weeks at most. "Where should those people go after that? We are also just students in our organization who at some point have to go back to studying full time," he said.
Just because few to no students are sleeping on the actual street does not mean that there is no problem, Jongman stressed. "All these people lack security and are focused on everything except studying," he said. "And just to be clear: foreign students are very welcome, but they have to end up in a humane situation. You shouldn't bring them here and then leave them homeless." The university has a responsibility to provide adequate housing for the people it registers to study there, he said.
The municipality of Groningen does not dispute Shelter Our Students' figures. A spokesperson told NOS that the municipality is doing everything it can to shelter as many people as possible with its emergency shelter and cheap hotel and hostel accommodation.